On Being a Late Bloomer
I’m a late bloomer. It sometimes seems I’ve lived my life backwards. I like to say I took an early retirement (minimal employment and lots of leisure), and now that I’m of retirement age, I’m fired up and cracking to start working.
I mean really working, working at my true work, the work I was meant to do.
What took me so long? Well, for one thing, any original work that blends multiple gifts, life experience, and acquired wisdom, must take time to ripen. It’s not available to young sprouts or saplings, but only comes to fruit on a mature tree.
In addition, there are no role models or career counselors to point us in the direction of our unique work. So I had to wait to evolve and develop before I was ready to discover it for myself. . . .
In Order to Go Forward I Had to Let Things Go
But there were other things that stood in my way as well. I had to stop letting myself be stopped by my self-doubts, insecurities, and fears, by my shyness and introversion, and my fear of competing. I had to give up the fantasy that someone would discover me and, leading me by the hand, present me to the world. (In other words, I had to stop waiting to be rescued.) I had to learn to assert myself, to ask for the attention I want, and the help I need. And I had to notice my tendency to compare myself to others, always finding myself lacking – and challenge that persistent habit.
Another thing I had to question was my resentment. For a long time part of me has been on sit-down strike out of bitterness at not having my “greatness” recognized. I had to stop demanding the perfect conditions before I would fully show up, stop withholding myself from the world until all my requirements were met. For instance, I had to stop waiting for the world to make reparations for my childhood, stop waiting for my childhood tormentors to come, individually and as a group, kneel down before me, and beg for forgiveness. I had to stop waiting for all my wounds to be healed, stop expecting to become the improved, competent, resilient person I thought I needed to be (the life of the party, super-organized and great at self-promotion). And I had to stop waiting for my inner critic to lavish me with praise and tell me I was ready.
It’s Now or Never
I had to recognize my unique, mortal life and decide not to waste it – no matter how unready I felt, no matter how many courses, trainings, and advanced degrees I thought I might still need, to put the finishing touches on my masterpiece of self. Ready or not – age 50 plus – I had to decide to jump. I had to decide that this time, no matter how scared I was, I wouldn’t give up.
Mainly, I had to decide that the ache in my soul I’d felt for as long as I could remember, the urge to bring something forth, the longing to express, to create, and to let my light shine, could be put off no longer. The pregnancy of my soul was way overdue.
I had to take seriously that urge of my soul and not keep putting it off until after I’d finished answering my email, doing the laundry, or googling the latest creative genius, especially the one who had just died, acclaimed by the world.
And I had to stop playing eeny-meeny-miney-mo with all the possible directions I could imagine exploring in my remaining time on earth. I had to stop calculating the most practical steps, the most lucrative careers, the roles most favored and approved by my friends and peer group, or sanctioned by society.
I’m Not a Bad Duck
I had to stop trying to fit into someone else’s idea, stop trying to conform and be a good duck. Ever the ugly duckling, I’ve tried again and again to be a better duck – and failed. In studying any new field, attempting to model myself after those who set the standard, I’ve been “inducted” again and again into the trance of duck-dom, trying to imitate what I saw rather than following my own inner sense. It was time for me to acknowledge that I wasn’t meant to be a duck, that I wasn’t actually a bad duck at all, but a bird of a different feather! All I have to do is pay attention to myself, look inward instead of out for my direction.
I had to acknowledge that no matter how many paths not taken I might mourn on my deathbed, none could possibly match the grief I would feel if I were to die without ever having followed my own path, without having taken the risk of following my own soul’s star wherever it might lead. Whether it led to a barren desert or the flowing waters of Eden I would never know if I didn’t take that chance.
So, at age fifty-plus, I have decided it is not too late to grow up, to bear fruit, to take the risks I’ve feared, to be a swan and take flight. Fortunately, the soul is not subject to the same limits as the body. The soul can stay pregnant for a lifetime and yet give birth to a vibrant child – so long as there is time. The work we are born to do, the true work that is ours alone, and which the world will never have if we do not do it – that potential stays as fresh in our souls as the seeds buried in Egyptian tombs that saw daylight and sprouted after thousands of years. Fortunately, we do not have to wait quite that long. We only have to wait as long as it takes us to say, “I am waiting no more.”
How about You?
And you, dear reader: Have you ever struggled with trying to be a better duck, but just couldn’t make a go of it? Did you ever realize you didn’t want to be a duck after all? That duck-dom was not what you were born for, not your true calling?
And now how is it for you? Do you ever feel that your soul is pregnant with something you are waiting to give birth to? And if so, how long do you want to wait? How long will you wait? Does it feel about due? Would you care to join me and walk into the birthing waters together?